Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Marketing with No Money

Jason Alba of Jibber Jabber an online executive recruiting firm, gave the best talk I’ve ever seen on social media marketing. He was fired from his job a couple of years ago and launched this company, authored the book I’m on LinkedIn – Now What? and is finishing a second book on Facebook.

Despite his rambling, self-deprecating style Alba is very smart. He lives in Utah and built a nationally known company by sitting behind his computer.

And he did it without spending any money on marketing. Bravo Jason.

Here are four ways that Jason marketed his business without spending a dime:

1. Built His Network

As an executive recruiter network building and relationship management is Alba's specialty. He says the idea behind social media marketing is to create a network of evangelists – people who love you – people who will recommend you – people who will say great things about you.

Research says people have to see your brand at least 7X before they recognize it. So the strategy should be based on getting it in front of them in the most ways possible.

Alba's social media network includes Multiple Blogs – LinkedIn – Company Newsletter – Facebook – Communities/Groups – Twitter – Books - Articles

Your network should be built carefully and nurtured. It’s the guts of your business.

Alba recommends using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software to track all of your contacts, many of whom are in different parts of the social networking sphere.

Segment your contacts and send information out to them regularly both by putting it in their in-box and having them come to you.

2. Used Email as a Branding Tool

You want buzz – people talking about you so you should generate interest in every way you connect with people. One place people forget to pitch their brand is in their email signature which should be used as a billboard for your company.

Figure out what message you are sending with it now (Do you have one?) and if not add one that distills your sales message into a sentence. Mine is now “Sharing health and science with everyone.” It’s not perfect but at least it says what I do.

Remember you can also paste your email signature into messages to communities, your LinkedIn, Facebook and other networks, and other places where you answer questions or participate in the discussion.

3. Got His Name Out There All the Time

Brag – Make a video, PowerPoint or slide show about your business. The presentation can go up on your LinkedIn page, your web site, and on other venues like Facebook. It will humanize your business and let everyone quickly get what you do and what your edge is.

Join groups – Alba says he’s found Yahoo Groups most active. The community groups are better because they are centered around a specific topic. The PR value of having someone post a positive experience with your business is priceless.

You can also give webinars that will make you sound smart and help others understand how smart you are.

Alba says at last count he had 7 blogs – some of which are written by others. He’s a devotee of blogging every day so people see your name in front of them every day. I have three blogs and strive for once a week. There’s only so much a busy entrepreneur can do.

He also regularly leaves comments on other's blogs and has built a network of links from his blogs to others.

3. Focused on Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Alba’s growth strategy is blogging to build links and traffic to his site, other blogs, pages, etc. He started by developing a network of bloggers he could have relationships with – those who would link him, mention him or write an entire post about him. He always makes them aware of new and enticing posts. A recent one that got major attention: Depression in the Job Search.

Of course it’s great to be covered by the mega bloggers but getting their attention can be very hard. So start by building a large network of people who each have tiny audiences or you can start your own community and invite others to join.

(This is from me - many industries that I work with have online lists of the top 100 or 200 blogs in their area of expertise. The lists include names, contact information, etc. It's a great way to find out who's talking about your client's business - what they are saying - how they position themselves - and get a free up-to-date media list).

Twitter is also a great way to promote your blog - you have to strike a balance between too much tweeting your own horn and what works but once you find it - it's a great way to build readership.

You have to give your blog readers the ability to sign up and receive your blog via email – it gets your message in front of them if they don’t come to you.

4. Lead the Conversation

Alba says if you want to build your company then write a book. These days anyone can author a book and e-publish it. If you write a book about what you do, with a compelling title and smart advice people can learn from and it will help your business a lot.

Why? One reason is that most media programs – TV in particular – like authors. They can hold the book up in front of their audience. It makes them look smart to have read your book. And everyone sells more books.

If you write an e-book use online video, web sites, blogs, news programs, etc. that will link back to your book. An e-book can really help your clients understand what you do and how you do it well, as can white papers.

Should you charge for the e-book? Probaby not for the first one.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Don't Let FAQ Writers Design Your Web Site

I love calling a company when I'm on its web site and telling whoever I get on the phone that I can't figure out how to find what I need on it. Then comes the polite little chuckle of agreement and an explanation of how to go five layers deep to still not find what I asked for.

Is that how you want your employees to think of your web site - as an embarrassing little joke?

Ever waited on line at a retail store and watched how slowly the line moved. Think of your web site like that. If people have to click more than two times or wait more than a few seconds for something to load they're done and gone. Bye, bye.

I conduct research for a living - then write about and market what I learn. And I can tell you most web sites suck. Far too many are on par with the owners' manuals of technology products - they were designed by people who don't need to read the manual or use the FAQs or find something on your web site. And we wonder why our bounce rates are so high.

Now we know more about site design and have more cool bells and whistles. But how do you get your web site to brand you - to help others find you - to create satisfied happy customers?

Seth Godin, who is one of the smartest marketers out there, put out a list of questions on his blog that you should ask and answer before redesigning your site. I've deleted and added a few and organized them differently - but here's his list. Hope it helps.

What is the goal of the site?

Are we trying to close sales?

Are we telling a story?

Are we driving people to take an action – what is it?

Are we earning permission to follow up?

Are we hoping that people will watch or learn?

How can we best manage this project?

Who are we trying to please?

Do we have to please the boss?

Is impressing a certain kind of person important? Which kind?

How many people do you need – what will they do?

Who needs to update this site? How often?

How often can we afford to overhaul this site?

How do we connect with our target audiences?

Who are we trying to reach? Is it everyone? Our customers? A certain kind of prospect?

What are the sites that this group has demonstrated they enjoy interacting with?

How many times a month would we like people to come by? For how long?

How do we spread the word about our site?

Do we need people to spread the word using various social media tools?

What are the best ways to continue connection with our audiences?

Do we want people to call us?

How many times a month would we like people to come by? For how long?

How can we make it easier for people to find what they need on our site?

Do you track the information that people go to your web site to find?

Do you analyze the questions that people ask when they call in and are trying to find info on your site? What do they tell you?

Have you asked your web site visitors how easy it is to find information they need or make a transaction?

Have you brought them in, sat them in front of you and watched the process by which they search your site?

Do they get what they need in a couple of clicks? Do they get frustrated? Have you looked for ways to address this?

Do we make it easy for customers to contact us and get answers?

Do real people answer customer questions that come in through your web site?

Do you add questions that come in from site visitors to your list of FAQs on a regular basis?

Do you send canned answers to all of your customers who write to you?

Do you revisit these answers on a regular basis and see if they address what people are asking?

Do you track what people who go to your forums for answers to questions they cannot get on your web site ask?

Is there a way customers can follow up with a real person if they need to?

How do we maximize our web site for SEO?

Are there ongoing news and updates that need to be presented to people?

Is the site part of a larger suite of places online where people can find out about us, or is this our one sign post?

Is that information high in bandwidth or just little bits of data?

Does showing up in the search engines matter? If so, for what terms? At what cost?

Will we be willing to compromise any of the things above in order to achieve this goal?

Will the site need to be universally accessible? Do issues of disability or language or browser come into it?

What's the best way to keep our budget in line?

How do we best prioritize our options?

How much money do we have to spend? How much time?

What's our time line?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Soldiers Go Social

Welcome to the military on Facebook, Twitter and some other social media sites. Probably our largest, most bureaucratic organization – the transformation into social hasn’t been easy for those in uniform. Think about it though – what a great way for soldiers to communicate and to find new recruits.

At the Adweek DC Conference this week, Colonel Mike Jones, of the Army National Guard Strength Command, told stories about his experiences leading social media efforts in his branch for the last two years. He opened with a story.

Some of the generals love Twitter but they don't necessarily know how to use it. So recently I had to tell a four star, 'Sir you don’t have to tweet it every morning when you arrive at the Pentagon.'"”

Jones tales of helping the military enter the social media world are laced with humor. There’s something we can all learn from them. Here are some highlights:

Learning to let go

It was a big leap for us, Jones said, because we always have goals and metrics and a plan. We do have the ability to engage with our product and deliver it remotely. But to let soldiers tell their stories in an unfiltered way was a big change for us. It meant providing a deeper sense of connectivity but it also meant giving up a lot of control.

Tossing out the formats

We looked at our competitors, other branches of the military, and they were trying to make their social media sites look just like their web sites. They have all this gorgeous art and they want to use it. But that’s not what social media is. My goal was to make our site look like a friend’s site. It’s not very attractive, and kind of plain. You have to look like the media you are in.

Changing the rules

Many of our people love Twitter. They will hear a buzzword and say, "I’m going to go tweet about this." The generals see words like hell or damn and they want you to take them down immediately then question why we're up there in the first place. You have to explain to them that social media is different and make sure they get it. Because if they don’t buy into the concept, they won’t support you, and then you’re done."

A social army

We have 300,000 soldiers who bought into and live our product. When we started in social media a couple of years ago, there were already 700 power users in the Guard on Facebook. We decided to let them help us. They wanted to volunteer and be involved. So we use them as moderators – and their passion is conveyed to this community.


We want to be the best in class in our industry. We use social media for leads, enlistments, to talk about engagements and build traffic to our web sites. But it's been a real learning experience. We thought once we got out there everyone would come. But it wasn’t that simple – we overshot and were disappointed. Now it’s a slower more natural build.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Embrace Your Inner Bitch and Use it For Good PR

That's what Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue did to save her job recently. Of course, she was already labeled as a super monster in the film "Devil Wears Prada," so it's not like the fact that she is a haute couture bitch is a stunner.

But how many times have women heard that successful women are bitches and successful men are smart. Female PR people and marketers who aren't afraid to tell the truth and be pushy are shot down by men all the time. I worked in a company like that once. My boss would sit there nodding as I spoke, his eyes glazing over and then finally responded with a "Good Point," when I was done talking. Then he'd ignore everything I'd said.

His comments were always followed by a number two who would repeat what my boss just said, adjusting it just enough so it sounded like it was her idea. Then a love fest of the highest order would erupt. The rest of the smart women in the room just wanted to crawl under the table and die. Number two was a bitch but never, ever in front of anyone male or who mattered. Why? Because she grew up in corporate America and had sucked up her whole life. She didn't know how to do it any other way.

Well guess what? According to Tina Brown, founder of The Daily Beast and former editor of Vanity Fair and the New Yorker, bitchiness can be creative, smart and attention-getting. Wintour was about to get replaced with a younger, hotter, more malleable version of herself. So she struck a deal with documentary film producer R.J. Cutler to film her life. She did something it must be really hard for her to do, gave away creative control. She combined the documentary's release with a special Fashion Week event that was a roaring success, and now she's back on top.

So what's the lesson here for PR people and marketers? Most PR people are scared. They put out fires not start them. They tell clients what they want to hear. They are terrified they'll get fired if their client gets negative publicity. They won't go out on a limb and tell a client what they really think - or perhaps they don't even know what would work better. They water down everything to the point where it says absolutely nothing. And then when they can't sell the story they put a bunch of 22 year-olds on the phone and make them sell it.

Anyone who reads my blog knows I have issues with talking points. What sells is something that makes me care, that is genuine. Bitchy people are interesting. They have character. They make mistakes. They fix them. The get in trouble. They figure out how to get out of it.

The best way to get a reporter to write about your client is to let them follow them around for a couple of days and write about what goes on behind the scenes - the decisions that are made. So what if it might be a little negative. I subscribe to the belief that all press is good press. A negative story gets a lot of attention - these days more than ever.

Years ago I wrote an article for Manhattan, Inc. magazine that was immensely popular called "Jerry Della Femina's Fast Pitch". It was the inside story of how a gutsy Madison Avenue ad agency went after new work. Jerry got it - he knew it would help him and it did. And I reported on some of the struggles in pulling the pitch together, but for the most part it was a positive story. And it helped him cement his place on top.

Here's the polar opposite of that. A woman I know vaguely through business has built hers around writing and speaking about Gen X and Gen Y - teaching the grown-ups how to manage their kids in the workplace. She has this whole spiel about the conflict between the generations, how the millenials are different, etc. The Washington Post came to one of her talks and covered it.

You could almost hear the 20-something reporter gnashing her teeth as you read the story. The writer pointed out that the material presented was irrelevant, dated and a combination of what a lot of other people had said about the same topic over the years. She questioned why baby boomers paid for the talk.

Quite frankly, the reporter had a point. The talk is entertaining, but it's all in the delivery. I've seen this presentation by others and it fails to address the realities of today's marketplace. The sense of entitlement in the millenial generation raised when everyone won a trophy at soccer and was coddled, is gone. They are getting fired. They can't get jobs. And none of these "generational consultants" address that in their talk. They're still saying the same things they were five years ago about people who don't exist anymore.

A couple of days ago, I got an email from the woman who felt offended by her Post coverage. The email explained how she'd received all this hate mail after the article appeared and how "hate should be addressed with knowledge." It was defensive and kind of creepy.

Was she wrong to let the Washington Post reporter in? Absolutely not. The press she got was pretty good actually - it was a long feature with photos and an overview of what she does. Though the reporter was skeptical, she noted the audience was happy. I would have let it go and been happy with the coverage. But people can't take it when others criticize them. They get offended by bitchiness of others. And they feel like they have to fight back.

So good for Anna Wintour - who wasn't afraid to be exactly who she is. As Tina Brown put it "Anna’s appeal is that she has no interest in pretending to be human. . . She showed her inner vampire."

Another woman waiting to catch a glimpse of Anna Wintour on the street at a Fashion Week event put said it even better. "Everyone loves a bitch."

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Read All About It - Yachters May Save the Day

There is an old saying that you can't get something for nothing. Well newspapers have disregarded that over the last few years by putting much of their content on the Web for free then watching their print circulation die.

Online advertising never became the draw newspaper ad execs thought it would, and as a result many are bleeding money.

But The Newport Daily News (Rhode Island's wealthy boating enclave daily) took a bold marketing step recently, according to an article on Newsweek's online version. It started charging for online content in an effort to strengthen its print market.

What happened? Readers started buying the newspaper again. Since NDN started charging for its online reading, the 13,000 circulation publication has seen daily print sales jump by 200 per day.

Can a publication devoted to yachting and the high life get the attention of an industry stuck in a time warp? It is starting too.

Since the experiment worked - other newspapers are looking into copying the marketing strategy. And well they should, it's about time somebody in that business got smarter about marketing that will save print.

Read the full story at http://www.newsweek.com/id/214607